August 17, 2023 — Article

The National Consumer Law Center and the United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry produced a new State Digital Justice Advocacy Toolkit that contains resources to help frontline groups that are working to provide broadband and communication assistance to incarcerated people, people with disabilities, low-income households, veterans, aging and rural populations, people facing language barriers, members of a racial or ethnic minority, and other underserved groups.

The State Digital Justice Advocacy Toolkit is available free of charge to help advocates navigate the new assistance programs created under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (or BIL) and the Digital Equity Act (or DEA). The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides an unprecedented $42 billion opportunity to build out broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas in the states and territories. The $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act provides funding to states, territories and a wide-array of organizations for digital skills training and equipment to close the digital divide.

The State Digital Justice Advocacy Toolkit is designed to help advocates seize this opportunity to shape their state’s plans to ensure that these investments meet the needs of under-resourced communities.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires that the state Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) and digital equity plans be developed with stakeholder input, specifically with input from the vulnerable and underserved groups listed above. The State Digital Justice  Advocacy Toolkit can help connect advocates and communities with the policymakers who will run the stakeholder process. The toolkit is designed to help an advocate figure out who in the state is responsible for developing the BEAD and digital equity plans, the status of the state’s plans, and when and where there are opportunities for stakeholder feedback. 

For instance, the toolkit contains a list of resources and a sample letter to the State’s Broadband Officer. The sample letter serves to introduce an organization to the State Broadband Officer (and the state’s assigned federal program officer), provide a template for stakeholder input regarding concerns and recommendations, and provide contact information for updates on the state plans and opportunities for providing feedback.

We hope that advocates find this a helpful resource and encourage advocates to use the toolkit and share their expertise regarding the digital equity needs of their communities. For more information, please contact Olivia Wein ([email protected]) or Cheryl Leanza ([email protected]).

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